The next young crop of NFL players is set to make its debut this season with a handful of them taking starting roles and pushing some players to latch onto rosters as backups.
Some of the most well-known veterans are projected to be on teams’ depth charts as the No. 2 or No. 3 player. Many players shifted teams during the offseason and may even confuse the casual fan with their new threads.
Players like Jameis Winston and Josh Norman changed teams in the offseason but will have to first start the season as backups.
Here are some of the veterans who will take backup roles this season.
Jameis Winston was the NFL’s leader in passing yards last season when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He recorded 5,109 passing yards, 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. He was the first player in NFL history to record at least 30 touchdown passes and at least 30 interceptions in one season. Now, he will serve as a backup to Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. Brees did miss some time with an injury last season, which means there is hope Winston gets to play a bit in 2020.
Nick Foles was the MVP of Super Bowl LII only a few years ago for the Philadelphia Eagles. He signed a giant contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars the following season only to be shipped off to the Chicago Bears prior to the start of the 2020 season. Foles did not win the starting quarterback job over Mitchell Trubisky in training camp and will start off as a backup. Foles was injured to start Week 1 last season and eventually lost his job to Gardner Minshew.
Adrian Peterson was thought to be the No. 1 running back for the Washington Football Team to start the 2020 season. But Washington made the surprise move of cutting him as the organization needed to trim the roster to 53 players. Peterson signed with the Detroit Lions after he was let go. Peterson is listed as the No. 3 running back behind D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson.
Frank Gore is the active leader in rushing yards and somehow found a team to play for prior to the start of the 2020 season. Gore, who is entering his 16th season in the NFL, has 15,347 rushing yards and is No. 3 all-time on the career rushing yards list behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Gore signed with the New York Jets in the offseason and will need a significant number of carries to even come close to Smith on the list.
Jason Witten came back to football prior to the start of the 2019 season. The former Dallas Cowboys tight end had 63 catches for 29 yards and four touchdowns as a 37-year-old pass catcher in 2019. In 2020, he finds himself backing up Darren Waller with the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten is definitely going to be a Hall of Famer but seeing him with anything other than a star on his helmet is going to be strange.
Alex Smith is a backup for Washington for a whole other reason. He suffered a life-threatening leg injury during the 2018 season but has worked his way back to becoming the No. 2 quarterback on the Washington depth chart. Washington will start the season with Dwayne Haskins taking snaps, but unless there is a significant setback, Smith could be back on the field at some point this season.
Josh Norman was once one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but in 2020 he may have had to settle for a backup role. Norman was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason. He is listed as a backup to Levi Wallace. He had 40 total tackles and an interception in 12 games last season for Washington.
LeSean McCoy was among the veteran players who signed with the Buccaneers in the offseason. McCoy, when he does play, will be getting the ball from Tom Brady. McCoy was a top pass-catching running back earlier in his career and will try to show the team there is still some juice left as he enters his age-32 season.
Nelson Agholor lined up for the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons before opting for another team in the 2020 offseason. Agholor signed with the Las Vegas Raiders but he is not one of the top three wide receivers on the Raiders’ depth chart. Rookie Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards are the top three receivers for Vegas. It will be interesting to see how Agholor fits in during the season.
D.J. Swearinger made his mark as a safety with the Washington Football Team during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2019, he played for three teams and still managed to have 50 total tackles in nine games. This season, the veteran defensive back will settle for a backup role for the Saints. But even as a backup, Swearinger is poised to make his mark alongside players like Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.